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Could Hattie’s man come a cropper in Erdington?

February 12th, 2010

How would his selection go down with the locals?

There’s a head of steam building up over the plans by Harriet Harman’s husband, Jack Dromey, to try to become Labour candidate in what has been the super-safe seat of Birmingham Erdington.

Martin Kettle in the Guardian put it like this: “Not all appointments of family members are necessarily bad ones. But they pretty much all look bad. And they therefore bring dishonour not just upon the individuals involved, but upon the cause they represent. I’m willing to accept that, in principle, there may be exceptions, but the fact that I can’t instantly think of one is at least suggestive of their rarity. Nepotism and its related conditions are always unhealthy.

The possibility that Harriet Harman’s husband Jack Dromey is about to be parachuted into a safe Labour seat in Birmingham in time for the general election raises some of these issues. It’s not an example of direct nepotism. A seat is not in Harman’s gift. And it’s not that Dromey is unqualified to be a Labour MP either – though, certainly, he’s conspicuously not one of the underrepresented women that Harman has otherwise dedicated so much of her career to advancing in such contests. It’s just that, as a senior official of the Labour party in his own right, and married to an even more senior Labour official too, his possible emergence as a Labour MP smacks of preferential treatment and perhaps worse..

And that, no doubt, is how it will be seen by many voters in the constituency. It just looks bad and its impact could extend way beyond the seat.

For it provides Cameron Towers with a ready-made answer to charges of heredity against his party. It could also be linked to the way Brown originally got his seat and the manner of his election unopposed as leader.

When issues like this arise the Labour movement can look so undemocratic and I don’t think they realise how bad it can appear in the outside world.

In normal times this wouldn’t be a problem. The notional 2005 result is Lab 52.94%; C 22.87%; LD 15.81%; OTH 5.99%; UKIP 2.38% so a pretty comfortable majority.

But these are not normal times and this is just the sort of move that could attract a lot of negative publicity and resentment. Labour turnout could be depressed and the Tories energised.

So should you bet on it? I thought it might be worth a punt but Ladbrokes are only offering a miserly 11/4 on the Tories doing it. At 5/1 I’d have taken it.

Mike Smithson